Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara Larry

PE Class

Physical Education, or just PE, class was also something new to me in seventh grade, no more casual “recess” that we had in elementary school, we now had to actually do sports and get graded on it.  Baseball, basketball, track and field (a lot of running), flag football, volleyball, and more.  All the sports were outside as the gymnasium wasn’t built until laterLock.  Doing sports outside in the Florida heat meant you got hot and sweaty so we were required to wear uniforms, shorts, T-shirts, socks and tennis shoes.  A month or two in the winter we added gray sweatpants and sweatshirt on top, but there were few days cold enough for them.  I started the year with all new PE clothes, pants, shirt, socks, shoes and the on the list required jock strap.  I had never heard of a jock strap before and when gave me my new PE clothes which include one, I wasn’t even sure how to put it on and when I did, I felt like I was naked, not having underwear on.

   In the PE locker room, each boy was assigned a basket in a wall of baskets to keep your PE clothes in.  The basket was about the size of two shoe boxes and you had to provide your own Master’s combination lock, oh great, yet another combination to remember and have dreams about. [photo]  Class began with dozens of boys streaming into the locker room, not just for my class, but there were usually three or four classes at once with twenty or so boys in each class, the locker room was a frantic rush to get in, unlock your PE clothes basket and then find an empty street clothes locker which wasn’t always so easy for the clothes lockers were not assigned.  There were several U shaped rows with an upper and lower locker, each with a number. Seventh graders had to use the lower lockers while 8th and 9th graders go upper lockers.  You would put your street clothes into the locker and then change into your PE clothes, then rush outside to meet out on the court or field depending on the activity, where the Coach Cline would take roll call.  All of this in under six minutes, ten if you rushed from the last class and got there early.  If you were late, you got demerits which affected your grade. 

Some sports I liked, others not so much, well actually most not so much.  About the only sport I did reasonably well at was running when we did track sports.  One thing which was good is that I learned the basic rules and how the sports were played which helped later in life as it seems sports and men go hand-in-hand, and I at least could have a conversation about sports even though I cared little for them.

Upon completion of the activity for the class, the coach would blow his whistle, and we would all run to the locker room, grab a towel, and find your locker, oh yes, did I mention you had to remember which locker you choose at the start of class?  Everyone’s lock looked the same, you didn’t want to be caught trying to unlock some else’s lock because you got the wrong locker.  Yeah, more years of bad dreams about that.  Upon unlocking the correct locker, you striped off our sweaty PE clothes and headed to the showers  which was one big shower room with a dozen shower heads around the wall.  There were never enough shower heads, so you often had to stand around in the shower until one became available, awkward.  There were the usual antics and practical jokes of boys, usually by the older boys on the younger, most notable the “rat tail” which is a towel rolled up on the diagonal looking like a rat tail, a damp towel after showering worked the best.  A rat tail could be snaThe Jarpped like a whip, making a snaping sound as it struck skin, usually of a naked boy in the shower.  After showering and drying off, I would put my school clothes back, and slip on my penny loafers with the shoehorn every boy carried in their back pocket along with a six inch comb then put my PE clothes back into my basket, and throw my towel in a bin as I walked out the door and rush to the next class.  I soon learned to make sure I had my next class textbook with me for there wasn’t time to stop by my book locker first.

Locker rooms have a smell to them you never quite forget.  With several hundred sweaty boys coming and going every school day you soon learn what the phrase “smells like a locker room” means.  The first few days, or week if it was cooler weather, wasn’t so bad but by the end of the month it was quite a smell.  I remember pulling my two or three week old PE clothes out of my basket, still damp with sweat from the previous day and almost gag when I put them on.  At the end of each month everyone was required to take your PE clothes home and have the washed but that seldom included your tennis shoes which just got riper as the school year progressed.

My most notable PE experience was when I was in the 9th grade when I made some contact explosive which I bought to PE class.  I was quite the amateur chemist, and I read in Heinlein’s book Farnham’s Freehold about how Hugh Farnham made an explosive using ammonia and iodine to make Nitrogen triiodide.  Well simple enough, I asked Dad if he could get me some iodine crystal and a bottle of ammonia from his work which he did. I started small, making an amount smaller that a pencil eraser which settled to the bottom of a glass beaker. As long as the compound stayed wet it was relatively stable but once dry the smallest thing could set it off.  It tested it by syphoning off a small amount with a glass tube, putting it on the work bench upon which it quickly dried.  Taking a screwdriver I touched the spot, and it went snap, giving off a small, brown, iodine smelling cloud.  Cool, I thought as I tried it again but touching the bottom of the beaker a bit to hard causing it to explode and blow off the bottom of the beaker.  Ok, lesson learned, don’t use glass beaker and don’t use glass rod to get it out.  Switching to a metal can and using a small plastic syringe, I made a larger batch having perhaps 2cc’s in the syringe along with another couple cc’s of water to “keep it safe”.   The next day I took it to school, where, before school started, I found if I put a small drop of it on the sidewalk and put a penny on top, when someone picked up the penny it went snap and the penny would shoot up in the air.  I showed this to a friend and we played around with putting a drop on one thing or another and setting it off but soon I found there being less and less water in the syringe and the compound was drying out. Worrying it might explode and blow off my hand, I dumped out the compound on the ground just outside the locker room as my first class was PE.  Well, my friend carefully picked up the compound using a piece of paper, carried into the locker room where he spread it around on the floor where it quickly dried when soon after the boys started coming in and everywhere they walked there cracks and pops with little clouds of brown smoke rising up.  Most everyone was late to roll call that day but only my friend and I knew what really happened.

Updated: 08-18-2022